Handshake Equality

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American
culture has been plagued by the so-called female handshake for far
too long. There are scores of articles available on the web about
good handshaking technique. So why is it that nearly every woman
I meet feels compelled to present me with a cold, limp, contorted
hand? Every man in this country has been in the awkward situation,
strangely grasping a woman's unnaturally posed fingertips. Why do
so many women not know how to properly execute this standard greeting?

Part of
the problem seems to be that no one ever takes the time to teach
young girls how to properly shake hands. Though every little boy
is repeatedly coached in this time-honored greeting, from the little
league sports team to meeting daddy's friends to greeting fellow
parishioners at church, boys are expected to shake hands with proficiency.
So why is it that the vast majority of American women have never
been shown by anyone the proper way to greet their fellow
citizens? There is clearly a gender gap in handshake education and
it's high time the gap be closed. Women could be told how to
shake hands with one simple sentence: Shake hands like a gentleman.
Unfortunately, there are a fair number of men out there who, like
their fairer counterparts, don't know how to properly shake. The
unisex handshake, a vital life skill, is easily learned with a few
good guidelines and minimal practice.

First,
the unisex handshake should be firm but not bone crushing. There
is a rather unfortunate tendency for women to offer over a completely
lifeless appendage, perhaps out of fear of seeming too "butch"
or pushy. Likewise, men often feel the need to prove that their
hands are stronger than those of Greek demigods. Both are equally
unappealing to the poor soul forced to accept. A good handshake
is the greeting of equals and should never demonstrate submissiveness
or assert dominance.

Second, it
is called a handshake, not a finger shake, not a wrist shake, a
handshake. Never grab the other person's fingers and proceed to
shake away like an overzealous rube. Similarly, don't go so far
up past the hand that you have them by the wrist, violently shaking
their joints loose. A proper handshake entails the meeting of the
respective "webbed" areas between the "L" formed
by the thumb and forefinger. This demonstrates possession of at
least a modicum of coordination skills.

Next, you
are not there to hold hands or do chiropractic work on your new
acquaintance. Everyone has encountered the guy or gal who grasps
others' hand like a rigid and lifeless store manikin. Or worse,
the person who rapidly forces the arm up and down more times than
a rollercoaster at an amusement park. The optimal length of shaking
is two pumps, no more, no less. You don't want to seem uninterested
or inflexible, or convey over eagerness or pushiness.

The fourth
rule for good handshaking: pre-chilling is for white wine, not hands.
No one wants to grasp a cold, wet, clammy hand. How is this avoided?
Never hold a chilled drink in the right hand … simple enough yet
often overlooked. If the room temperature is making your hand cold,
try finding a warm mug of tea or coffee that can be held in the
right hand to keep it warm. Vampire-themed shows and movies may
be big hits but no one wants to shake their cold, lifeless hand.

The final
step to executing the proper handshake is to look the other person
in the eye, not the hand, when meeting them. Sometimes, people get
so focused on the hand that they forget to make eye contact their
new acquaintance. Eye contact is absolutely critical; it is a very
important aspect of nonverbal communication.

The best
handshake is the gentlemanly handshake, which could also be described
as the unisex handshake. Shaking is a skill that even dogs can master;
there is no reason why humans, of both sexes, cannot. With unemployment
at a 26-year high and millions vying for the few openings available,
the simple handshake can set a candidate apart.

September
16, 2009

Briggs
Armstrong [send him mail]
is a student at Auburn University majoring in accounting and minoring
in finance.

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